Ringmer 1851 Census

Sunday, 30 March 1851: Introduction to the 1851 Census

by John Kay

The system of national census returns every ten years began in 1801, but the surviving early census records tell us little more than the number of people and houses in Ringmer parish. Successive censuses became progressively more detailed, and that for 1841 is the first for which the enumerators' returns, giving the names of all the individuals counted, have survived. The 1841 census listed all the people living in each house on census day, their occupations, their approximate ages (the ages of those over 15 being rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5), and whether or not they had been born in the County of Sussex. From 1851 even more detailed information has survived. Exact ages and parish of birth were recorded, together with each person's marital status and relationship to the householder.

As in 1841, the large parish of Ringmer was divided into three sections, each recorded by a different enumerator. Each of the three sections was prefaced by a description of its bounds. The approximate routes followed by the three Ringmer enumerators can thus be traced and many households can be assigned to a specific house. Where roads formed the boundaries between sections (e.g. Broyle Lane), different enumerators recorded the opposite sides of the road. Unoccupied houses were also noted.

The names recorded were those of the people who resided in the parish on the night preceding census day. Some visitors are included and presumably a corresponding number of normal residents are omitted. The spelling of names is that of the enumerators. No significance should be attached to minor spelling variations - at a time when many were illiterate, the enumerators just had to manage as best they could. Ages and birthplaces also depend on the reliability of the information given to the enumerators, and of course on the accuracy of recording and transcription – we have done our best not to introduce errors at this stage.

John Kay, December 2000